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Lee Hamilton '52 Offers 'A Plan to Deal with Iran'

October 8, 2007

Lee Hamilton Press Club.jpgOctober 8, 2007, Greencastle, Ind. - "Our major objective in the present dispute with Iran is singular and clear: Prevent it from developing nuclear weapons," writes Lee Hamilton in today's Indianapolis Star. A 1952 DePauw University graduate who served 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and co-chaired the Iraq Study Group, Hamilton believes "it is not in America's, the Middle East's, or the world's interest to tolerate further nuclear proliferation."

In an op-ed, the Democrat notes that Iran is still two-to-eight years from developing nuclear facilities, "so we have time to pursue non-military ventures ... As for regime change, we have our hands full already in Iraq and Afghanistan. And advocates leave some key questions unanswered: Would regime change achieve our non-proliferation goals? What specific steps are we prepared to take and what sacrifices are we willing to make in pursuit of deposing the mullahs?" Lee Hamilton Students 2004-2.jpg

Hamilton, who is now director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., believes negotiation is the best route. "Currently, we are sending mixed messages that obfuscate our objectives and intentions vis-à-vis the Iranians. We engage them in discussions over Iraq, but simultaneously deploy a second carrier battleship group off Iran's coast. We have toned down combative rhetoric but have allocated $75 million to democracy promotion in Iran, a move Iranians see as an attempt at subversion. Diplomacy requires a degree of strategic flexibility for all parties."

The former congressman asserts, "My preferred course of action combines credible sanctions and incentives with containment. We engaged Iran after Sept. 11 through the U.N.-sponsored forum on Afghanistan in Geneva, when we shared enemies in both the Sunni-extremist Taliban and Al-Qaida. Granted, conditions in our relationship have deteriorated, but there are opportunities for cooperation which should be pursued, though success is far from guaranteed. It is hard to see a solution toLee Hamilton Point.jpg Iraq's problems, progress in dealing with Lebanon's internal political conflict, or stability in Afghanistan without Iran's participation. Iran is in a position of leverage across the region and can block developments it does not favor."

Hamilton believes America can offer Iran incentives in the areas of foreign investment, infrastructure development and trade. "We must always remind Iran of the benefits of engagement and the costs of isolation. We should work for stronger, tougher sanctions and intrusive inspections without delay. Military action can remain our big stick while we speak a bit more softly."

The column concludes, "There are few countries in the Middle East, or the world for that matter, that have caused us more heartburn over three decades than Iran. But if Iran and the U.S. are willing to negotiate seriously for a sustained period, what is difficult to imagine today could become possible tomorrow: a U.S.-Iran relationship grounded in a measure of mutual respect and elements of cooperation to meet our common interests, specifically preventing chaos in Iraq and denying the Taliban power in Afghanistan."

Read the complete essay, "A plan to deal with Iran," at the Star's Web site.

Learn more about Lee Hamilton, who also served as vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, in this previous story. The veteran statesman is a frequent visitor to the DePauw campus, and in October 2006 discussed the Iraq war and other matters at DePauw Discourse 2006: Issues for America. Access a story -- including video and audio clips -- here.

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